Some members of the All Progressives Congress in the House of Representatives have launched a powerful drive for the Speaker, Aminu Tambuwal, to emerge as the presidential candidate of the All Progressives Congress.
Investigations by The PUNCH on Thursday revealed that the members took it upon themselves to purchase the APC presidential nomination form for Tambuwal, who recently dumped the Peoples Democratic Party for the nationâ€™s main opposition party.
Attempts by the APC to pick a presidential candidate by consensus had failed after talks between the stakeholders reportedly collapsed on Wednesday.
The contest was initially between a former Head of State, Maj. Gen. Muhammadu Buhari (retd); a former Vice-President, Atiku Abubakar; Kano State Governor, Rabiu Kwankwaso, and Imo State Governor, Rochas Okorocha.
But, The PUNCH learnt that the â€śentryâ€ť of Tambuwal into the race had further compounded the situation in the APC.
Investigations showed that the lawmakers had reasoned that Tambuwal was a â€śpoor speaker,â€ť who would not afford the N27m the APC fixed as the cost of the form and had therefore opted to buy it for him.
The chairman of a very influential committee in the House and an associate of the speaker, confided in The PUNCH in Abuja on Thursday that the APC lawmakers agreed to foot the bill for the speakerâ€™s nomination form.
He said, â€śYes, I can confirm to you that the process is on. You know, he is one of the poorest speakers. He has no financial dealings and cannot raise the money.â€ť
Asked how much each member contributed to the project, the source replied that â€śit was by voluntary contribution.â€ť
Tambuwal could not be reached as of press time, but his Special Adviser on Media, Mr. Imam Imam, did not deny his bossâ€™s presidential interest.
He claimed that some â€śassociatesâ€ť of the speaker notified him on Thursday morning (yesterday) that they had bought the form for him.
Imam stated, â€śEarlier today(Thursday), some friends and political associates of the speaker notified him that they had bought the presidential nomination form for him.â€ť
He did not give details of the associates and friends.
When contacted, the leader of the APC caucus, Mr. Femi Gbajabiamila, confirmedÂ Â that there was indeed a presidential nomination form in the hands of Tambuwal.
He explained that the form was procuredÂ Â by lawmakers, who had put Tambuwal under â€śtremendous pressureâ€ť to run for the Presidency.
He added that apart from the lawmakers,Â Â â€śthere are other associates too who want the speaker to vie for the Presidency.â€ť
However, Gbajabiamila clarified that he could notÂ Â confirm whetherÂ Â the speaker wouldÂ Â run or not.
â€śI donâ€™t know if he has accepted, but I know that members put him under tremendous pressure and they bought the form for himâ€ť, he stated.
When contacted, the National Publicity Secretary of the APC, Alhaji Lai Mohammed,
said, â€śAs of this moment, Rt. Hon. Tambuwal, has not obtained a form.â€ť
Tambuwal has had a lengthy romance with the opposition since he became speaker on June 6, 2011 before he finally defected to the APC on October 28.
Initially, he was touted to be the preferred presidential candidate of the APC.
However, the entry of Buhari, Atiku and Kwankwaso into the race, slowed down his interest.
An option â€?Bâ€™ that was canvassed shortly before his defection was that he would vie for the governorship seat in Sokoto State next year.
Further investigation showed that some of the factors considered by the legislatorsÂ Â pushing for Tambuwal included age, liberality, financial muscle of fellow legislators and their political following. A competent source within the APC, who spoke on condition of anonymity, explained that the party was looking forward to a candidate that would appeal to the younger generation of voters across the country.
The source said, â€śThe majority of those who are going to vote in the general election next year have never voted before. They donâ€™t know the political myths that some of us know.
â€śTambuwal is seen as less controversial and â€?stainlessâ€™. He was more of APC than the PDP from day one of his speakership. He wants to be governor but thee legislators want him to be president.
â€śWith the powerful lobby, the leadership of the party might have no choice but to support Tambuwal because the financial strength of the legislators must be put into consideration.
â€śIf each of the legislators donates N10m, that is a lot of money. Younger elements in the House want Tambuwal. The leadership of the party cannot totally wish away the demand of the lawmakers.â€ť
Another sourceÂ Â said that the South-West would determine the aspirant that would pick the partyâ€™s presidential ticket.
He said, â€śThe aspirants will share the votes in the North because they are all from the North, where they have their bases. It is only the South-West that would provide block votes for any aspirant that the South-West supports. It is who Asiwaju Bola Tinubu tells the party to support in the South-West that we shall support. Other zones of the country are contesting. It is only the South-West that is not contesting. So, the South-West is the beautiful bride.â€ť
Meanwhile, the APC and the All Progressive Grand Alliance has condemned theÂ Â distribution of the permanent voter cards and the ongoing voter registration by the Independent National Electoral Commission.
The leaders of the party in Lagos State said they suspected foul play in the way the exercise had been carried out.
The Publicity Secretary of the APC in Lagos, Joe Igbokwe, said , â€śEvery four years, INEC knows that there would be elections. After finishing an election, they ought to be planning the next one.
â€śWe have looked at it and we are asking: is it lack of personnel? Is it lack of fund? Is it lack of capacity? Or what is it that they cannot do a normal job the normal way. They said they registered 6.4 million voters in 2011 and it went down by 1.4 million and they have not given any explanation that does not hold water. You still have people who have turned 18, who need to vote next year.
â€śThis is happening in all APC states: Edo, Rivers, Ogun states and so on. We are still asking: what happens to 1.4million voters whose names are missing from the register? They have not given any acceptable explanation for that reduction.â€ť
Igbokwe said the APC suspected that the flawed voter registration process might be part of the alleged plan by the PDP to rig elections in 2015.
He said, â€śYou can start rigging election from the source. All you need to do is to remove some names especially in the APC stronghold. It may not be the problem with Chairman of INEC, Attahiru Jega. It may be the staff of INEC that may be doing this. They can yank off some names from the computer and sell it to the opposition. That is our fear.
â€śWe donâ€™t control INEC; we donâ€™t control the Police; we donâ€™t control the Army. INEC is still being paid by the Federal Government. So it is a branch of the Federal Government. It is an agency of the Federal Government. It is not independent. The only way we can solve this problem is to go back to Uwais report.â€ť
The Chairman of the Lagos State chapter of APGA, Campbell Umeh-Nzekwe, also condemned the exercise, sayingÂ Â they suspected foul play.
Umeh-Nzekwe said, â€śThis issue of voter registration is no longer new to Nigeria. I donâ€™t know why it has become an issue, that it cannot be done. It is the same Jega who gave us hope in 2010, when he was appointed as INEC chairman. Four years is enough for a professor of political science to know that the voter registration is the root of any democratic set-up.
â€śVoting will commence in about two months. After registration, you have about 30 days to display the voter register for people to verify and crosscheck. We in APGA are asking Jega not to allow sentiments to divert his attention from the main issue. This is the dying minutes of the game and they are giving excuse.â€ť
By Edos News